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Meditation for Healing

Someone following my professional Facebook page reached out to me recently asking for any spiritual exercises to help relieve the pain, fear and discomfort associated with having cancer.  Meditation, creative visualization and dance movement are the core modalities of my INsideOUT program.  While I am not struggling with disease, I have experienced the benefit of these mind-body tools to help relieve stress, let go of judgment, and bring healing in profound ways.  I put together this list of exercises and resources to hopefully bring a little more comfort to those dealing with cancer, and for those that want to enliven their self-healing abilities.

Mind-body tools like guided imagery, guided meditation and hypnosis for cancer have been used for decades by oncology patients seeking help for pain, fatigue, anxiety and treatment-related nausea, but it’s only recently that research has demonstrated the full range of what these techniques can do.

Not only do these methods help enormously with the side effects, fears and discomforts surrounding cancer treatment that involves chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplantation, biopsies, medical procedures and surgery, but we’ve learned it can actually boost the body’s natural cancer-fighting abilities, heightening the activity of NK cells, T-cells and other immune mechanisms.

Similarly, yoga, affirmations and mindfulness meditation have also been found effective in helping cancer patients manage stress and support their bodies’ built-in, self-healing abilities.  Relaxation techniques and other mind/body practices can help calm your mind and sharpen your ability to focus. These techniques offer creative ways to reduce stress caused by cancer and to maintain inner peace. For example, some people use these techniques to help them relax as they wait for treatments or test results.

Here are some techniques that can help you cope with the challenges of cancer:

Breathing Exercises

At the core of life is breath. Laughing and sighing are the body’s natural ways of getting us to breathe deeply.

That is why we often feel calmer or rejuvenated after these experiences. Anxiety and stress can make us take short, shallow breaths. Shallow breathing, which does not allow enough oxygen to enter our bodies, can make us even more anxious. Try this four-step breathing exercise. It can be done anywhere, anytime:

1. Take in a deep breath from your diaphragm (this is the muscle between your lungs and abdomen).

2. Hold the breath for several seconds—however long is comfortable for you—and then exhale slowly.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 two more times.

4. Afterward, relax for a moment and let yourself feel the experience of being calm.

Meditation

Repetitive prayers are a form of meditation. Two other traditional forms of meditation include one-pointed and two-pointed meditation.

One-pointed meditation focuses on a word or sound called a mantra. Many people create their own mantra from an affirming word, such as “peace,” “love” or “hope.” Once you choose a mantra, find a safe, quiet place and repeat it to yourself during 15- to 20-minute sittings. The goal is to relax the mind, which has a natural tendency to jump from one idea to the next—and from one worry to the next. Do not try to force your mind back to your mantra when you notice it has wandered. Simply guide it back gently, accepting that it may stray again.

Two-pointed meditation is also called mindful or insight meditation. With this technique, you relax your mind by focusing on your breath. As your mind jumps around, practice non-judgmental awareness—simply observe the pattern of your thoughts and gently guide them back to focus on your breath. Non-judgmental awareness allows you to separate yourself from emotions and sensations rather than getting pulled into them. One benefit of this type of meditation is that you can practice it while seated quietly or when doing daily activities.

Guided Imagery

This stress-reducing technique combines deep breathing and meditation. As you practice deep breathing, imagine a peaceful scene or setting, perhaps from a memory. Once you are relaxed, you can create a “wakeful dream” in which, for example, you envision pain being washed away or your body becoming stronger.

Many people practice guided imagery exercises while listening to recordings of ambient sounds. These are usually music or sounds from nature, such as waterfalls or ocean waves. Sometimes just listening to ambient sounds is enough to relax your mind and briefly transport you emotionally to a place in which you feel safer and more secure. Other mind/body practices are yoga, dance movement and tai chi.

For my free guided meditation, go here.

For free guided imagery audio downloads, including an introduction to guided imagery from the Comprehensive Cancer Center, click here

Other resources:

*Free recorded guided visualizations that you can download, go to the Sound Mind, Sound Body link. Enter User Name:  SandraJ    Password: Healing

Recording titles that are relevant: “Break Time”, “Cancer Be Gone”, “Oasis of Comfort”

*Return to Wholeness,  a Mind Body approach to healing cancer, DVD by Deepak Chopra.

*Cancer, Discovering your Healing Powers audio download by Louise Hay

*Deep Meditation for Healing audio download by Anita Moorjani

I hope these exercises bring a little more peace and comfort to you.

Love,

Tara xo

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UPCOMING EVENTS

Tips for Creating a Daily Meditation Practice

What happens when we are so busy pushing and doing in life? I’ll speak from experience. I wake with worry and lots of thoughts in my head, usually a conversation with myself continued from the day before. I get distracted and irritated easily. I muscle my way through things, exerting a lot of energy. I race around attempting to complete every item on my to-do list, to no avail. I get caught in thought patterns that go round and round and don’t resolve. 

With all the busyness of life, work, family and domestic responsibilities, it is easy to feel depleted and overwhelmed. My daily meditation practice has become even more important in my life, and helps to anchor me and creates an energy reserve that I don’t get in other ways. 

When I begin my day with meditation I have a completely different experience than the stressful one described above. I feel more calm and in tune with the flow of my life. I have trust that everything is as it’s supposed to be, and I am guided and supported. I sleep better. I am more patient with my children. Time seems to slow down and actually warp in my favor. I get more done. Solutions and creativity flow effortlessly. I feel at peace and excited for my future. I am clear and knowing and trust my instincts.  The list goes on and on from this place of connection and calm, and I have to say it's so much better this way.

The benefits of meditation are greatest when practiced daily.  It’s easy to say you don’t have time, but spending 20 minutes daily opens up a world of possibilities and it’s really about quality of life at this point, isn’t it? Twenty minutes of nourishing time that is worth a million dollars. 

Here are a few tips to help you set up a daily practice.  

  • Set your meditation at the same time every day. If it’s not scheduled, it probably won’t happen. Carving out a specific time each day helps establish a routine. For me, I meditate after I drop my kids off at school. Maybe it happens after your kids are in bed (if you have kids), or when you first wake. It doesn’t take long to center and connect with your breath.  Set aside 20 minutes, or more if you can, in a quiet, uninterrupted space.  

  • Create an inspiring space that feels good to you and is inviting. It could be as simple as pillows propped up on your bed, or an altar in a nook in your house somewhere, or outside in nature under a tree. I use a meditation cushion and an altar with images, crystals and objects that remind me of the light and beauty I have around me. 

  • Begin with a ritual. Doing the same thing every time when you begin your meditation creates a habit and sets an intention for your practice. I always light a candle, burn a few pieces of sage and set an intention.  Sometimes my intention is just to empty out. Sometimes I want clarity and direction on something in my life.  Other times I ask for assistance with something specific. Trust your instincts on this. 

  • Read a passage from an inspiring book to help you connect to the larger lessons and truths of your life. There are universal spiritual truths that have been shared and expressed in many beautiful ways, and sometimes the perfect message can be just for you at the perfect time. Many of my poetry and self-transformative books are read before my meditation practice. The words of wisdom create an opening and help me to see things in new ways.  I bring that with me into my practice. 

  • Do it, even when you don’t feel like it.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Sit in your space and let the heaviness of where you are turn into fresh sacred ground. Let the earth catch any worry or upset, let the heavens flood you with beautiful light. You don’t have to do a thing except deepen your breath and soften your heart.

  • When you meditate, gently close your eyes and focus on your breath. I like to use the Ujjayi breath, an ancient yogic breathing technique that releases feelings of irritation, and helps calm the mind and body. With your eyes closed, gently close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 5 seconds and then gently release through your nose for 5 seconds. If your mind is very active, you can use a mantra, a single word like "love" or "peace" to help you to relax. Focus on your inner third eye or gently gaze at the ground and let the breath take you deeper into yourself. 

Wishing you all luck and fun as you greet yourself through meditation. I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below to let me know how it is going. I will be leading a 30 day meditation challenge beginning August 1st for those who want to join. Follow me on Instagram for intention setting, guided video meditations, inspiration and support!

Love Letters, A Film

I had something I wanted to express, so I made a film.  Very excited to share it here. Immense gratitude to director Ron Hamad for your artistry, friendship and collaboration, to Kyle Hollar for cinematography, editor Curt Sova and my dance partner Scott Hislop.

Why You Should Get Your Dance On!

I’ve been dancing all my life.  Without realizing it, dance during my childhood years was an emotional salve for a lot of painful and uncomfortable experiences.  Shyness in groups, hiding for fear of being seen, self-induced perfectionism.

When I showed up at the dance studio every day after school, all my fear, vulnerability and pain came out through the movement, the music, the passion and drive of my heart. I didn’t have to talk about my struggles, or fix things or figure it out.  I barely understood what I was going through.  But I did have raw emotions and luckily, dance gave me a way to process the natural and real feelings that coursed through my being.  Instead of getting stuck in a place of fear or worry, the movement brought in the light, the joy, the comfort.

My heart beats, the music takes me, the wood floor under my feet.  I sweat, I focus, I move.  I dance, I get lost inside in the most satisfying way.  I am ok.  I am here.  I will be ok.    

We hold emotion, stress, trauma, hurt, anger, fear, worry in our bodies.  Our shoulders and back tense up, our hips ache, we have chronic ailments and pain.  We get sick.     

If you don’t let emotions live, they will never die.

This is why dance is an integral part of my INsideOUT workshops; dance helps us to release emotion, let go of judgment and dissolve doubt.  As we connect to any pain, discomfort or disturbance that is present for us, we use dance to give voice to those feelings, and as we express, we release.  Just as an animal in nature "shakes" off the energy of a fight or flight moment, we humans need a way to let go, to release these strong moments from our bodies.  And as we do, we make room for new information, new ways of seeing things.  When we dance, our mind quiets and we get in touch with that inner voice inside, that inner guidance that has messages, wisdom, clarity and is the map to real peace and happiness.  

Dance is a powerful impulse and you need no training or technique to receive it’s benefits.  

Dance . . .

  • Gets you grounded in your body
  • Releases stored emotion and stress
  • Opens up the pathways to increased insight and clarity
  • Quiets the mind chatter
  • Improves strength and flexibility
  • Warms the body and ups your heart rate
  • Helps you feel courageous, free and empowered
  • Opens your heart

Dance is a gateway to freedom, a gateway to what we want in life.  It dissolves fears, transcends boundaries, and brings us closer to our ourselves and each other.  I am very thankful to have dance in my life and to share it with others as a powerful source of healing and comfort.  

For a simple, guided exercise, and to get a taste of my INsideOUT class, you can sign up below. It's FREE!

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UPCOMING EVENTS

Can’t Sit Still to Meditate, Try This!

From Tara's article on Mind Body Green 

Do you have a hard time unplugging from your fast paced life of work, to-do lists, life responsibilities?  Do you have a desire to meditate because you know it will quiet the mind and bring inner peace, but it’s challenging to sit still?

I absolutely relate!  I can easily get caught in trying to do more, be more, accomplish more, and most certainly get distracted with the habitual checking of my phone, emails and texts.  Now, more than ever, we are bombarded with the constant stream of stimulation and the pressure to keep up; all the more reason to find a way to gift ourselves the quiet, however we find it.  That space where we can actually hear the inner callings of our soul.  Where we can receive the guidance that reveals the path to greater fulfillment and happiness.  I believe happiness is cultivated from within.  This thought is the cornerstone of my INsideOUT workshops, using meditation, journaling, visualization and dance to connect to the peace inside.  

Meditation is one of the ways I unplug, but going straight to the meditation pillow from an agitated, stressed-out place can be a challenge.  As a professional dancer and choreographer, I know how getting grounded in the body through movement can be a bridge between the chattering, overworked, stressed mind, to the quiet and still space within that brings calm, peace and a sense of well-being.

If it’s a struggle to slow down to meditate, try using movement to help you. 

1.  Put on something comfortable and create some quiet, uninterrupted time for yourself, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

Sit on a yoga mat or blanket with your legs crossed, closing your eyes or gazing gently at the floor.  With your hands on your knees, slowly rotate your torso in a circle (clockwise), breathing in as you move forward and to the right and exhaling as you move back towards the left.  Continue for one to two minutes and then rotate counter-clockwise for one to two minutes. 

2.  Begin to connect with your breath. 

With a long inhale and exhale through the nose, allow your breath to deepen.  The breath will oxygenate the cells and the movement will release tightness or holding in your hips and back.  You may even hear and feel your spine adjust.  Continue with this slow, gentle circular movement as your eyes are closed and your breath deepens.

3. Extend your chest forward. 

As you get more comfortable in the body and in tune with the rhythm and pace of your circles, you may want to extend your chest forward to your knees even more and rotate to the back more fully, allowing a deeper stretch in your hips.  If thoughts or worries come up, just observe them, let them go, and come back to the breath.

4.  Focus on the movements of your body. 

When you feel ready, bring your torso center above your hips.  With your eyes closed and hands on your knees, Inhale as you push your chest forward, at the same time drawing your shoulders back. On the exhale, contract the spine in the opposite direction keeping your head parallel to the ground.  Repeat this 26 times.

5.  Stop the movement and let the energy vibrate inside.

And now, stop the movement and sit still with this energy vibrating inside.  Allow your body to relax with a straight back and soft front.  All tension melting away with a gentle focus at your inner third eye or gazing at the floor. 

From this place, stillness can be experienced.  Allow yourself time to bask in this blissful energy.  Stay in this space as long as you can.  When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes, gently move your body and come back to the energy of the room.  You may want to write down any impressions and insight that came up for you.   

Doing this movement before meditation always helps to center and ground my energy.  I hope this helps you in your practice and sending good vibes for a peaceful inner experience, subsequently bringing more ease to your outside world.

Photo Credit:  Lesli Matta

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UPCOMING EVENTS

Capturing Grace, Dancing with Parkinson's

Who knew that a simple hour in a dance studio with strangers could move me so deeply and be so transformational, to the point where I slowly and discreetly slide tears from my cheeks, as my heart swells and my body dances.   

This beautiful hour happened yesterday when I decided to join and witness dance as a healing source for people with Parkinson’s disease.  I first heard about Dance for PD through a posting that the Michael J. Fox Foundation shared.  I was perusing the internet, looking at research and information as my father has been struggling with this debilitating and progressive disease for over 12 years.  I see him bravely face the changes in his body, the grueling tightness, the fatigue, the tremors, difficulty walking, and other nonmotor symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, depression.  

When I saw that the Mark Morris Dance Group had collaborated with the Brooklyn Parkinson Group to create Dance for PD, I was immediately inspired and wanted to experience it.  Luckily these classes are offered throughout the states and in 11 countries around the world, and a beautiful documentary called Capturing Grace literally captures the essence of this healing work and the lives who are benefited from it.      

I know and understand the power of dance to heal, through my work as a professional dancer and choreographer and from the program I created INsideOUT, using dance to relieve pain in the body, bring joy to the soul and peace to the mind.   

As the participants filed into the studio yesterday I saw the familiar symptoms, the swinging gait, the shuffling feet, the far away glance, the scared look of uncertainty.  As the class began, those limitations sort of fell away.  It’s not that all of a sudden they were sky bound and leaping, but the heart and soul, the childlike freedom and joy is what rang so loudly in that room.  The music swept all of us up, and each of us brought our concerns, and placed them on the dance floor.  No longer patients, but dancers.  We each spoke a word to describe one of our current struggles, flexibility, feeling alone, can’t communicate clearly, exhaustion, and then we put those feelings into movement.  In a circle, facing each other, we strung our gestures into a linked dance, a story of our human experience, our highs and lows.  And again, the tears streamed from the corners of my eyes.

To finish, hand in hand, passing love and acknowledgment from one person to the next, was so incredibly moving.  To slow down, to be present to another’s experience, to give love, was truly a divine moment for me and kind of life changing.

May my father and others enjoy the benefits of this fitting and healing program.  Thank you to Lineage Performing Arts Center for having me and for all the other studios bringing this beautiful work to their communities: Find a class 

Love and blessings, 

xo Tara

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UPCOMING EVENTS

5 Ways Dance Can Help Clear Your Mind & Bring Inner Peace

From Tara's article on Mind Body Green

 Photo by Ron Hamad

Photo by Ron Hamad

For many years I believed dancing was a type of escape:  from fear, worry, judgment, tough teenage years.  Especially when I was young, my analyzing and worrying mind was so active and my emotional life was vulnerable, hidden and confusing.  Yet, when I stepped on the dance floor, those worries and uncertainties fell away.  Something about the rhythm and the vibration of the music and getting lost in the movement allowed me a gateway to expressing, giving voice and ultimately releasing those emotions of sadness, fear, loneliness.  And what poured in, as I went deeper into the dance, was a wellspring of freedom, happiness, calm, a feeling that I am going to be okay in this world.     

I realize now that dance wasn’t an escape, but a way of moving closer to myself, to my feelings, to my needs and my dreams.  Dance brought me closer to my inner peace and by giving over to the movement and the music, my soul took care of the rest.  Kind of like soul therapy.  I needed to quiet my mind and express my emotions.  Dance is wonderfully emotional.  I LOVE that quote, “If you don’t let emotions live, they will never die.”  Through dance, we can honor our emotions.  

And now as an adult, I still use dance, in addition to my meditation practice, to get in touch with that divine yumminess.  We all, at some point or another, have challenges that keep our mind reeling and questioning and spiraling and going.  The self-doubt, the uncertainty, the day to day struggles, the emotional roller coaster of life.  This chaotic mental dance can be channelled into the dance of the body to bring greater peace and happiness.  

You don’t have to be a professional dancer to dive in and feel connected to yourself and to that source that fuels us.  Whether you’re in a dance class, or you choose to dim the lights and play your favorite song in your living room, you receive the benefit of the energy that flows and the new information that comes in.  

Here are my 5 simple steps to dancing bliss.  I invite you to try it.  Who cares what you look like.  What matters is how you feel and sometimes all it takes is the willingness to do something different and be open to what appears.  There can be great healing in the dance.     

1.  Take off your shoes and put on something comfortable.  Feeling the wood floor or carpet beneath your bare feet gets you in touch with the support that is there for you always.  Allow your body weight, energy, any tension or worry to fall into the ground and melt away.           

2.  Dim the lights so that it is an internal experience.  You want to be cocooned and safe in your own private world.  This is not about perfect moves or performing outwardly, it’s not about judging yourself and deciding whether you are “good” or not.  Closing your eyes helps to tune into yourself and your journey.    

3.  This can be a beautiful journey of discovery, reflection, expression.  Set an intention for how you’d like to feel, what you’d like to get out of this dance meditation.  Maybe you’d like to let go of something, bring in something new, reframe a difficult situation.  Or maybe you just want to feel good.  Whatever it is, state it internally or out loud.  

4.  Put on a song or album that you love.  Pop music with lyrics can be fun but a soundscape feel that is more about the mood, and less about the words, can be helpful for soul traveling.  Play it on repeat or with a continuous stream, so that you are not interrupted with an abrupt ending.      

5.  Let yourself go.  Close your eyes, let the music move your body and don’t be afraid to release.  It’s a wonderful practice in surrendering to what is.  Let the energy flow as your body heats up and let instinct guide the way, allowing your body to move in different ways, shapes and expressions.  Let the anger out.  Let the happiness ring.  Let the giddiness ride.  It’s a beautiful thing.    

And when you’re done,  thank yourself for having the courage to explore and express.  Many times I go to my journal afterwards to write down any inspirations or insight that came forward.  Dance is a gift that we all have access to.  Love and light to you.

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UPCOMING EVENTS

Dancing with Pharrell

The song “Happy” plays in my house many times throughout the week, mostly on repeat while my 8 year old and almost 2 year old dance and twirl until they are dizzy and short of breath.  They say “again, again . . . ” and I can’t help but be brought into the dance party by the infectious joy of that song.  There is something about Pharrell Williams and his music that is so open, joyful and accessible, from young to old!  His style, presence, message is very inspiring to me and seeing how “Happy” has swept the world, I see most others feel the same.    

So, when I got a call to drive across town on a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles for an audition, instead of my response to my agent saying “no thank you, not in rush hour traffic”, as soon as I heard it was for Pharrell’s next music video, I said “I’ll be there”, and I made it happen.

After a super fun dance call to his new song “Come Get it Bae”, I showed up the following day to the call back and was brought in the room to dance by myself with Pharrell lounging on a couch with his beautiful wife beside him and uber chic and talented choreographer Fatima Robinson.  Not your typical audition with the artist beaming a huge smile from ear to ear while dancing for him and his crew.  He was gracious, present and very sweet.  I couldn’t help but smile and giggle back and just have a ball dancing to his tune.  So funny.  My daughters would be proud! :)   

Needless to say, I booked the job and had a blast that day!  Pharrell was super fun and so praising, kind, and cool. Love his music and very "happy" to be part of the dance.  Go on Pharrell!!!  Watch me and the gals get our dance on in the video below.

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UPCOMING EVENTS

Interview with Tara

Last year I was interviewed by an amazing non-profit group called Mental Fitness, Inc.  Their mission is to build mental fitness in all youth.  Their blog site, The Real Deal, shares empowering content authored by professionals from the arts, wellness, nutrition, yoga and psychology, with the aim to help today's youth on body image, healthy coping, nutrition and self-esteem.

I didn't know that this interview would eventually stir a deeper calling in me to share my stories and some of the tools that have helped me find balance, self-acceptance and greater joy along my performing arts path as a dancer and choreographer.  This particular interview inspired me to start my blog.  

I have copied the full interview here for you to read and I want to thank Robyn Hussa for all the amazing work she does and for asking for my thoughts. 

xo Tara

INTERVIEW:

RH: Please tell us about yourself and what you do?

TNH: I am a dancer/choreographer.  I started dancing at age 9 at a local studio in Orlando, Florida.  I walked in the door, hearing and feeling the vibration of music and seeing bodies in motion and I never walked out.  I trained under an AMAZING woman named Cathy Gillaspie, who guided me, mentored me and inspired me.  I went on to a full dance scholarship at Loyola Marymount Manhattan College in NYC and eventually moved to Los Angeles to fulfill my dream to work as a dancer and choreographer in film, television, commercials and stage.  I’ve had an extraordinary career working alongside the most inspired artists including Daniel Day Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks, Penelope Cruz, Catherine Zeta Jones and Madonna among others.

RH: Can you tell us a bit about any upcoming shows that you are working on?

TNH: I choreographed a series of commercials for Faith Hill earlier this year and have an Al Pacino film called Danny Collins that will be released in 2015, that I choreographed.  He was lovely to work with and I had a ball!  I’m also really enjoying choreographing for a new show called Trophy Wife with Malin Akerman and Marcia Gay Harden that begins airing this September on ABC.  It’s a very funny show that I am proud to be a part of.  I’ve also been dancing, completing work on The Neighbors, Grey’s Anatomy and a really cool commercial for Samsung on The Voice.

RH: Do you find the pressures of being performer / artist significant with regard to feeling the need to have a “perfect” body?  If so, how do you navigate through that terrain?  How do you “not” judge yourself when others (critics, audience members, producers, etc.) “judge” you based on outward measures?

TNH: Well, I have chosen a career where image and body is at the forefront.  I wish that we could all just dance, act, sing and express ourselves artfully without the scrutiny of how we look, but unfortunately it is the whole package that we are auditioning for and selling, ultimately. Being at the top of my game means that I am well trained and bring my talent to the room, but it also means that I am able to help facilitate the vision of the director, writers, ad agencies, etc.  When I walk into an audition room, it’s not about me anymore, which I know sounds counter-intuitive.

Starting to choreograph and being on the other side of the audition table has helped me with this immensely!!!  Mostly it’s just NOT a personal thing.  Sometimes casting just needs one blonde, one brunette and a redhead or they are looking for someone with a specific quality or essence that gels well with an actor.  This revelation was HUGE for me.  I’ve learned, all I can do as a performer is my best, including dancing with everything I’ve got, having my head shots up to date, wearing the appropriate clothes, being in tune with what hair and make-up works best for me and most importantly, being authentically me in the room.  After that, it is out of my hands.

There will be feedback and messages along the way that will inform me and if I’m smart I will make adjustments but thankfully I’ve come to this . . . who I am at my core, my value, my worth, my beauty, my true SELF is separate and independent of the needs of a project and those who are hiring me and critiquing me.

I can’t say it’s always easy for me but being gentle and kind with myself is helpful when disappointments and feelings of rejection come up, when you want something so badly and it doesn’t work out.  Letting the sad, angry, jealous, disappointing emotions out is the first way for me to move through it.  Then I can look at the bigger picture and trust that I am ok and supported and loved.  And then sometimes I just have to put on the music, and dance . . .

RH: Who were the role models in your life?

TNH: Primarily my dance teacher Cathy who I mentioned earlier.  She was an extraordinary woman who was in touch with her own inner beauty and light.  Herpositive leadership came in the form of inspirational talks, informing us aboutfeeding our bodies with healthy foods, dancing from our heart and soul, sharing our gifts with others and those in need and a real essence of love.

She was inspired and she knew how to inspire the goodness and the altruistic qualities in me and I believe in my dance friends.  Never did she focus on weight or body image.  It was only about the love of dance, working hard and the camaraderie of our company of dancers.  I am forever thankful for her and know, without a doubt,  she helped shape who I am in a large and positive way during that oh so influential and vulnerable time in my life; she helped me focus my mind on my inner experience and so whatever outer work happened, it was an extension of the love and passion for my craft.

I know this is a gift because I’ve seen other studios, other shows, other experiences and it is not that.

RH:  What do you define as beautiful?

TNH: What is authentically true.  When I see and experience others share their authentic selves, I see that as beautiful and I feel most beautiful when I am in a place of acceptance and love.

RH: How do you define inner beauty?

TNH: The inner world is such a private and beautiful oasis.  What a gift to have the convening of self, that place that is so expansive where anything is possible.  Inner beauty is that gentleness with oneself.  That place deep inside where you become the comfort, where you have the chance to align to your higher purpose.

RH: What is happiness?

TNH: Happiness is what you choose it to be.  Is the glass half full or is it half empty?  Is this an opportunity or are you victim to your circumstances?  Do you have the courage to step fully into yourself?

RH: How do you manage your stress levels in daily life?  Do you use music / art / dance, etc. as a coping tool?  Are there other things that you do to live mindfully?

TNH: Things that bring me the most peace are being in nature, meditating and surrounding myself with beautiful things like paintings, music and art.  I love color, design and composition.  I think it’s important for each of us to find what speaks to our soul and go to that for comfort and inspiration.

Music is an incredible vehicle for me for feeling inspired and getting me in touch with my emotional life.  I also have this thing that I’ve been doing for a long time and it ALWAYS frees me, ALWAYS takes me to a place of self empowerment.  If I feel nervous or stressed about an audition, work scenario or any life situation, I set a very clear intention about how I’d like to experience myself within that particular situation.  

I don’t worry about the steps to get there, I only focus on the intention and I let the Universe take care of the rest.  It’s kind of like that Albert Einstein quote, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.  I have to trust in the larger picture and my larger self, the part of me that is completely open, fluid, receptive, wise, expansive and all knowing.  I know this probably sounds so new age and lofty, but there is real power there; I experience it daily!

RH: How do you find a work-life balance — as a woman, a mom, a professional — what are keys to balance?

TNH: To be honest, it is a challenge for me.  I want to be a present, available, loving mommy, an amazing partner, a successful career woman, and a whole, happy individual.  Each of those spokes of my life takes patience, love, clarity of direction, time and commitment.  Luckily I have an amazing man in my life.  He is a beautiful artist and supports my work completely and understands the limitations of balancing it all.  It is a lot of work and we are still learning.  What has helped is asking for help and choosing to be present with whatever task is at hand.  Putting the work away when we’re with the kids.

Finding time to dive fully into the work when it is time.  Sometimes our house is complete chaos and other times it is just magical with Rob at the piano, dancing happening and a lot of laughter.  I’m still learning to relax and find the play and joy, even in the midst of the juggling circus act.  The one thing I do know is the importance of “me” time and “us” time. I think those are great lessons to teach our daughters.

RH: Other thoughts / reflections?

TNH:  I reflect often on how blessed I feel for the group of amazing, inspiring friends around me.  I call them my “tribe” and they have become my family.  I feel lifted, supported, seen and understood by them.  I am constantly inspired and moved by their courage and faith and artistry.  If one can surround themselves with those that bring light and positivity, thinking outside the box in an empowering way, it is a gift.  That support system makes life a little sweeter . . . and certainly more fun!  

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